Tag Archives: UNHCR

Abbott’s Cambodia solution

Australia has signed an agreement to resettle refugees held in Nauru to Cambodia.

It may be Abbott’s but it is not a solution. The numbers will be negligible.

Cambodia’s Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said his country wants to take far fewer refugees than expected after an initial pilot program that could involve only a handful of people.

“It would be 20 or 10 or 50 or 100 or something like this. Not 1000 as people have said,” Mr Khieu Sopheak told the Phnom Penh Post.

Only people willing to go will be shipped to Cambodia.

Long Visalo, secretary of state at Cambodia’s foreign ministry, told journalists that before refugees slated for resettlement on the Pacific island of Nauru are selected, Cambodian officials will go there to brief them on the country’s difficulties and traditions.

Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest nations.

“We will explain to them about Cambodia … the country is like this or this, a lecture for them and then they will decide if they want to come or not,” he said.

Cambodia certainly is poor ranking 183rd in the world in terms of per capita GDP. While a signatory to the UN convention Cambodia currently hosts only 70 refugees and 20 asylum-seekers. It has not always been exemplary in the treatment of its own minorities.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told RN’s AM that four or five would be resettled at first. It seems altogether possible that volunteers will be found given the horrific stories coming out of the Nauru detention centre:

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said women inside the centre were regularly required to strip and exchange sexual favours with guards so they could have access to the showers.

She said there were also allegations children had been forced to have sex in front of guards at the centre.

The UNHCR is not happy. They are deeply concerned at the precedent set by the Cambodian agreement:

“This is a worrying departure from international norms. We are seeing record forced displacement globally, with 87 per cent of refugees now being hosted in developing countries. It’s crucial that countries do not shift their refugee responsibilities elsewhere,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “International responsibility sharing is the basis on which the whole global refugee system works. I hope that the Australian government will reconsider its approach.”

UNHCR has consistently advocated for asylum-seekers to have their claims assessed and to benefit from protection in the territory of the State where they arrive, or which has jurisdiction over them.

“Refugees are persons who are fleeing persecution or the life-threatening effects of armed conflict. They are entitled to better treatment than being shipped from one country to the next,” Guterres added.

Meanwhile the UNHCR has identified some 3.2 million Syrian persons of concern. The 7.30 Report paints an even gloomier picture:

It’s over 6 million who are internally displaced, approaching to 7 million people, and over 3 million who have fled over the borders – and, of course, these are known numbers. There’s always some leeway with this but we know of at least that many people. So it’s a severe humanitarian crisis.

The UNHCR are looking for another $1.8 billion to deal with the Syrian refugee problem. Abbott might give a damn if he’s honestly concerned about humanitarian issues.